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Cedar Chests: The What and the Why

Right after my husband and I moved into our current apartment, I got the opportunity to get a piece of furniture that was something I always wanted: a cedar chest. My mom always had hers, which was a family heirloom, but it was for keepsakes and never opened. I saw them occasionally at estate sales, but always for more than I could afford. Honestly, we didn’t really have room for a cedar chest before we moved. But someone I knew was looking to give one away before they themselves moved, so I got this one for free!

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It’s a little battered, as it has clearly seen a few moves. Its key is missing; the original owner didn’t actually know that cedar chests can be dangerous for small children, since they are airtight and have a tendency to close by themselves. There’s even a stamp on the inside, warning the owner to keep the chest locked. The original owner had no idea about this, but just enjoyed how their sheets smelled after being stored in the chest.

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But why a cedar chest? True, it would be easier to simply store my sweaters on a shelf instead of tucked away in a cedar chest. But in this bug filled area, it is truly the protection that the cedar chest gives that makes it worth to have one in the home. Moth larva love to eat wool, and often find their way into closets, especially if a piece is not worn for a while. Cedar acts as a natural pesticide to moths and the airtight chest traps the cedar aroma and oils enough to deter pests. Most of the things that I store in my cedar chest are made of wool, stored away for the summer months in this chest.

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First things first, when storing things in a cedar chest: Avoid placing things directly on the wood. Over time, the oils in the wood can seep out and stain the contents of the chest. This is more common when pieces stay in the chest for a long period of time (such as years),  but it is better to take simple step and protect the items you place in the chest. Preferably, you should use unbleached muslin. If you’re really serious about conservation, you can purchase archival quality acid-free muslin, but it really depends on how long you will store these items, the age of the items, and personal preference. I used a spare sheet (washed of course) in a light color, which in unlikely to bleed color onto the contents of the chest.

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I first placed my wool and wool blend yarn in the chest. I have non-wool yarn that I store elsewhere, because it is less likely to attract pests. Keeping my wool yarn secure is also important because my dog, River, thinks that wool is a delicious snack  that I’ve pulled out specially for her. I don’t want to think about what would happen in she got her paws on my stash.

Then I tucked all of my sweaters in around my wool, and then pulled the sheet up the sides to prevent the sides of the chest from touching the items. You can spot my two 50s era sweaters, some wool sweaters that are nice for winter, and my tweed skirt poking out on the left.

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So there you go! I hope that you learned something about cedar chests and enjoyed a peek into mine! Hopefully in the future I can share with you how I pull all of these things out for winter, and pack away my summer clothes to maximize the space in my closet! On my blog schedule, I was supposed to talk about that today, but the high yesterday was 90 degrees here. Summer isn’t done with us yet here in the Midwest!

Do you have a cedar chest? What do you store in it? Is winter coming where you live?

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